The Episcopal Diocese of Utah has chosen four priests to stand for election as its next bishop, including an openly gay canon from the Episcopal Diocese of California.
Announced Friday, the four candidates will vie to succeed current Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish , who since 1996 has served as the tenth Episcopal bishop of Utah and the denomination's first woman bishop west of the Potomac.
Though relatively small – emcompassing some 25 congregations and representing about 5,000 Episcopalian – the diocese will likely draw the attention of Anglicans worldwide as it has paved a way for the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe to become the denomination's third openly gay bishop.
Just last month, the Episcopal Church confirmed the election of its second openly gay bishop, the Rev. Canon Mary Douglas Glasspool, who was elected in December to the office of bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
Her election follows that of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson, whose election as The Episcopal Church's first openly gay bishop in 2003 strained relations between the U.S. Anglican arm and the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Following Glasspool's confirmation, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, said it was "regrettable that the appeals from Anglican Communion bodies for continuing gracious restraint have not been heeded."
Archbishop of Sydney Peter F. Jensen, meanwhile, said the Anglican Communion has reached "another decisive moment."
"It is now absolutely clear to all that the national Church itself has formally committed itself to a pattern of life which is contrary to Scripture," Jensen lamented. "The election of Bishop Robinson in 2003 was not an aberration to be corrected in due course. It was a true indication of the heart of the Church and the direction of its affairs."
On May 22, a special convention meeting of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah will be convened to elect its next bishop. Following the election, the bishop-elect will need to receive the required majority of consents from diocesan bishops and standing committees within 120 days as Glasspool recently did.
A consecration is tentatively planned for Nov. 6 with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori officiating.
The ordination and consecration of Glasspool, meanwhile, will be held at the Long Beach Convention Center on May 15.